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Marijuana Not a Gateway Drug, Says U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch

At a recent town hall meeting, the U.S. Attorney General stated that marijuana isn’t a gateway drug that leads to the use of ‘harder,’ more dangerous, substances.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch recently acknowledged that marijuana use is not responsible for pushing a person to use harder drugs, the International Business Times reports. Lynch was talking to high school students about the dangers of prescription pill use at a Richmond, Kentucky, town hall meeting when she was asked by Madison Central High School student Tyler Crafton whether she believed cannabis use is a gateway to eventually abusing opioids.

Lynch responded that the use of prescription pills, rather than marijuana, increases the chances of eventually abusing drugs like opioids.

“There is a lot of discussion about marijuana these days,” Lynch said. “Some states are making it legal, people are looking into medical uses for it, and I understand that it still is as common as almost anything. When we talk about heroin addiction, we usually, as we have mentioned, are talking about individuals that started out with a prescription drug problem, and then because they need more and more, they turn to heroin. It isn’t so much that marijuana is the step right before using prescription drugs or opioids.”

Attorney General Lynch’s response aligns with reports from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which conclude that, “the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances.” The 1999 Institute of Medicine report, titled “Marijuana and Medicine,” stated that, “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.” Research actually indicates that legal access to cannabis is associated with a reduction in the use of dangerous opioids.

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The United States is battling a nationwide opioid abuse epidemic, which is responsible for taking the lives of more than 28,000 Americans in 2014. Opioids, commonly prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain, carry high risks of addiction and abuse.

Lynch told the students, “it is true that if you tend to experiment with a lot of things in life, you may be inclined to experiment with drugs, as well. But it’s not like we’re seeing that marijuana as a specific gateway.”

Opioids are particularly dangerous because of their tendency to induce tolerance. With repeated use, a person no longer responds to opioids as strongly as before and must consume a higher dose to achieve the same effect. Therefore, while prescription opioids are most dangerous and addictive when taken through methods specifically for their euphoric effects, patients taking them as intended and prescribed are also at risk for dangerous adverse reactions.

“In so many cases, it isn’t trafficking rings that introduce a person to opioids. It’s the household medicine cabinet. That’s the source,” Lynch told the students before fielding the marijuana question from Crafton.

You can watch a video of Lynch’s address to the Kentucky students here. Keep up with the latest cannabis legislative and health developments by visiting our news feed.

Post by Eve Ripley

Eve is a writer specializing in cannabis education and editorials related to cannabis industry news.

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